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Too Bad Bumper Stickers Aren't Bulletproof


A picture I took a while back, on Pico, in Santa Monica

"Support our troops!" "Support our troops!"

When I see those stickers on the back of some R.V.-sized SUV I always wonder why they don't just cut to the chase with the real deal: "Proud Supporter of OPEC."

There's a lot of talk in the halls of government about supporting our troops -- and not a lot of action. Here's an editorial from The New York Times about the absolutely disgusting information that our troops now getting to Baghdad will have to wait UNTIL THE SUMMER!! "for the protective armor that could easily mean the difference between life and death":

...According to an article in The Washington Post this week, at least some of the troops will be sent out in Humvees not yet equipped with FRAG Kit 5 armor. That’s an advanced version designed to reduce deaths from roadside bombs, which now account for about 70 percent of United States casualties in Iraq.

The more flexible materials used in the FRAG Kit 5 make it particularly helpful in containing the damage done by the especially deadly weapon the Bush administration is now most concerned about: those explosively formed penetrators that Washington accuses Iran of supplying to Shiite militias for use against American troops.

Older versions of Humvee armor are shattered by these penetrators, showering additional shrapnel in the direction of a Humvee’s occupants. The FRAG Kit 5 helps slow the incoming projectile and contains some of the shrapnel, giving the soldiers a better chance of survival.

Armor upgrades like this have become a feature of the Iraq war, as the Pentagon struggles to keep up with the constantly more powerful weapons and sophisticated tactics of the various militia and insurgent forces attacking American troops. But the Army, the National Guard and the Marine Corps have been caught constantly behind the curve.

Unglamorous and relatively inexpensive staples of ground combat, like armor, have never really captured the imagination and attention of military contractors and Pentagon budget-makers the way that “Top Gun” fighter jets, stealthy warships and “Star Wars” missile interceptors generally do.

We have no business sending anyone into war unless they're properly equipped. There is so much about this war that is wrong, but this sort of thing is especially terrible.

Furthermore, I'm more and more convinced we've gone about the Iraq thing totally wrong. Not just the fact that we're there at all. But, if you go to war, you can't go to war namby-pamby. We should have struck the place with the full might of our military, and snuffed out all the people we now call "insurgents," and basically colonized the place.

Again, don't get me wrong: I was never for going to war in Iraq, only for going after Osama and flattening a considerable tract of land in the mountains of Afghanistan. Moreover, I'm not at all for "nation building." But, if we're going to go to Iraq and nation-build, we might as well nation-build.

Posted by aalkon at February 16, 2007 1:05 PM


Amy -

First, this new armor was most likely just developed. There's going to be a time delay between development and full production (just ask Nintendo and Sony).

Second, every pound of armor added to the HMMWV slows it down. And the slower it goes, the better a target it is for an asshole with a sniper rifle or RPG.

Tradeoffs, my dear. We hear about how the troops have no body armor, only to find that they prefer not to carry an extra 30 pounds around in the middle of the desert.

What you ought to be pissed about is not the fact that the HMMWV are not impenetrable, but the fact that we are doing fuck-all to stop Iran from blowing them up.

Which shouldn't surprise me, I guess. After all, we aren't serious about our own border, why should we be serious about Iraq's?

Posted by: brian at February 16, 2007 4:56 AM

Graph 1

> How do you explain to the thousands
> of American troops


Graph 2

> But according to an article in The
> Washington Post this week, at least
> some of the troops

A thousand? Dozens? Three?

Even as NYT editorials go, it's a light and breezy piece. Their heart's are not in it.

> Unglamorous and relatively inexpensive
> staples of ground combat, like armor,
> have never really captured the
> imagination and attention of
> military contractors

If only. Anybody remember the $600 toilet seat? If there's a way to pull money out of the Pentagon, someone will do it. Meanwhile, the page has opined that armor is a "relatively inexpensive" military expenditure. We'll remember.

Posted by: Crid at February 16, 2007 6:37 AM

Crid, I've blogged about this before:

It's egregious.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 16, 2007 6:46 AM

Here's another link:

About troops forced to buy their own body armor.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 16, 2007 6:46 AM

And here's a story, from 2005, about troops forced to jury-rig their vehicles with armor:

This isn't a new story, this one I just posted. Which makes it so much more awful.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 16, 2007 6:48 AM

Another glittering example of your ignorance of history, war, and national security policy. I particularly like the way you logically lurch from Sherman's "Kill them all, the Lord knows his own", to the cowardly convenient "I just wanted a limited war that hunted down that bad man Osama". You really should stick to advice for the lovelorn.

Whenever the preparedness canard is floated, I think of the young men who returned from the war in the Pacific, and who were ordered to boot camp, because they'd never been. Hard to believe, but they were handed field uniforms, and boarded transports in the Spring of '42, where they learned to shoot outdated bolt action 1911A1's off the fantail on their way to Guadalcanal. At dinner last week, I explained to my young Marine Lt son that all battles are fought with what you have at hand. We have never fielded a better trained or equipped military force.

Posted by: Casca at February 16, 2007 7:18 AM

We are the wealthiest country in the world, and we've just sent young men and women to war. We absolutely, positively owe it to them to protect them the very best we can.

Furthermore, if I'm such a dimwit, here's your chance to educate me.

P.S. Telling old war stories isn't an argument.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 16, 2007 7:22 AM

And of course the young men in WW2 weren't being asked to live amongst the enemy.... we are the third party in this civil war.

Posted by: eric at February 16, 2007 7:33 AM

Casca, is your Marine son going to be wearing government issue body armor, you know, the stuff that fragments when struck, or Dragon Skin, the stuff that Bush's bodyguards wear? And no, Brian, it's not new. And yes, the troops want it, to the point that their families are raising money to send it to them,
The Pentagon has decreed that the body armor worn by George Bush's personal Secret Service bodyguards isn't able to pass the Pentagon's tests, and therefore isn't the best body armor available - even though the Pentagon hasn't fully tested that body armor yet.
Which can mean only one thing: either President Bush's bodyguards don't have the best available body armor, or the Pentagon is lying.

More info at, where we learn that 'the Interceptor Body Armor that is currently supplied to our soldiers in combat zones cannot withstand multiple bullet impacts without falling apart. In fact, it is so fragile that it can break when it comes into contact with a hard object "such as the ground."'
And you're fine with your son wearing Interceptor?

Battles may be fought with what's at hand, but our Republican president and his staff have had 7 years to give us a better army, and failed.

Crid, you're not even trying here, so you'll be ignored.

Posted by: Cat brother at February 16, 2007 7:50 AM

From The 2 Nov 06 issue of Stars & Stripes (Pacific) (available online) -
Inferior Body Armor For Army

After reading “Marines in Iraq to get new armor by December 2007” (article, Oct. 25), about the Marines getting new armor but the Army having to wait years for the same stuff, I was compelled to write.

I simply do not understand the Army’s (and military’s) giving fat government body armor contracts to provide me and my soldiers with inferior body armor.

What I am talking about is stubbornness on either the military’s or politicians’ part to provide soldiers with the best body armor available. Specifically, I am talking about Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin body armor. Although this armor is far more expensive than the currently issued body armor, the multiple-hit ability and overall protective abilities of this armor make the “interceptor” body armor look like flattened soda cans by comparison. A full vest of the Dragon Skin armor was priced by me before coming to Iraq at $4,200. However, the government would actually save money using this armor because fewer soldiers would get killed.

It is the responsibility of your publication to tell the real story: Why are troops being issued inferior body armor and then being placed in harm’s way with it when superior body armor has existed for years?

All U.S. soldiers deserve the best, and what we are being issued is a far cry from what they deserve. Soldiers need to stop being scared or threatened at mobilization stations if they purchase their own armor; after all, it’s their butt on the line!

If the government wants to send us in harm’s way, that’s what the military is for (among many other reasons), but the government owes its soldiers the best protection available, not the cheapest.

Staff Sgt. David Anderson
Al Asad Air Base, Iraq

Casca, waiting for you to tell him that he's a defeatist with no knowledge of the military.

Posted by: Cat brother at February 16, 2007 7:56 AM

The WWII analogies just don't work, Casca. Would you have argued for the line fire formation used during the Napoleonic Wars too?

"You know son, just stand there and fire. Don't move. Stand perfectly still. Wait for the enemy's return volley. Pray silently you don't get hit. Reload. Repeat. Hell, it worked for Napoleon's Grand Army, it will work now."

What will be next? Shield and spears? Hell, it worked for the Spartan Phalanxes. Why not now? Casualty comparison numbers ala Robert McNamara?

What do you learn from past wars? The various abstracts that were applied during military encounters. One of the key abstracts in battles is adaptation. The need to constantly adapt to ever changing situation. Not escapist stories of past victories that have no relevance to the present situation.

Under the present situation, the US soldiers need solutions. Not story time with Casca.

Posted by: Joe at February 16, 2007 8:33 AM

Amy -

Your complaint about the lack of Dragon Skin is noted. However if we were to send it off without the DoD having completed whatever tests they are required to by either policy or law, and someone died as a result of it, you'd be screaming up and down about "why wasn't that stuff fully tested".

So we're stuck in a self-sustaining feedback loop.

Personally, I would rather see us stop persecuting Marines for shooting at human booby-traps, and stop requiring our soldiers and field commanders to phone home before taking out a known hostile.

You complain about our troops being put in harm's way with insufficient gear, and yet you say nothing of them not being given the ability to use their existing skills and abilities to defend themselves or prosecute this war effectively.

Posted by: brian at February 16, 2007 9:07 AM

While we're at it, I'm told they cold use some fire extinguishers for the humvees too. The ones that are supposed to be there. The ones that my friends newphew was looking for when he suffered burns all over his body trying to save his friends after they were hit with a ied. He is still recovering, still wearing gloves, still not able to scratch his own nose, but everyone else in that humvee died. Maybe they would have anyway. It is war after all. But I think they deserve some damned fire extinguishers.

Posted by: christina at February 16, 2007 9:08 AM

Actually, Brian, Dragon Skin's makers have been requesting testing by the Army for some time. Some of the principal investors and executives of two of the companies that supply the current, inferior body armor to the military are very large Republican campaign donors.
One of these executives, David H. Brooks of DHB Industries, was just forced to sever all ties with the company that he founded and that bears his initials, the company itself was delisted by the American Stock Exchange, and he and the company both have agreed to pay nearly $80 million to settle lawsuits in the past three months.
When testing was finally done, it was done at a private, not Army, facility, and performed by by the chief engineer of the Interceptor design team. Waytago, Army!

What's worse, the "testing" was never actually finished. It was stopped about 30% of the way through by the testers. But that's not what an anonymous "senior defense official" "leaked" to the media:

Quoting here -

The Army's struggle to find a new, more flexible body armor was dealt a setback Friday when high-tech vests called Dragon Skin failed to pass military testing, a senior defense official said.
After three days of testing this week, the Army determined the body armor does not meet military specifications, said the official, who would not specify which tests the armor failed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the results have not yet been released.

That was May 19. Retired Marine Lt. Col. Roger Charles, writing for Soldiers for the Truth, put out a quick release a few days after the testing was halted:

No official source says "failure." So far, anonymous sources are the only ones cited. (Remember recent "official" claims that Dragon Skin failed ballistic and other tests conducted on behalf of USAF Office of Special Investigations. These claims were proven false when Defense Watch obtained a copy of the actual test report and noted that the test report said the exact opposite - Dragon Skin passed OSI standards!)
The Army still has not released results of the "testing." Pinnacle had no immediate comment at the time, but a few weeks later, on June 30, issued a release that said, in part

The testing was stopped by the Army at 12:37 pm on the 19th, Karl Masters and James Zheng had just shot one of our Medium sized vest with 12 rounds of APM2 (level 4) with complete stops on all rounds with a back face trauma average of 22.5mm for this vest and 23mm for all the vests tested, which is a 50% reduction in trauma over the current system. Imagine how many more lives could have been saved if the Dragon Skin¨ body armor system was available to our troops today. When was the last time the Army dared to shot 12 rounds of M2AP (level 4) into any Interceptor IBA [individual body armor] with ESAPI [enhanced small-arms protective insert; i.e., rigid ceramic] plates? The reason Karl Masters, Col. John Norwood (being forced to retire early) and James Zheng gave for stopping the testing early on the 19th was as quoted by Karl Masters: "I'm completely baffled by this flexible technology and I'm not going to send another round down range until I can understand how a flexible system works"!

No, I don't think we have to worry about Amy screaming liability anytime soon.

Posted by: Cat brother at February 16, 2007 9:21 AM

I am loathe to reply, because I know the audience. I was a Marine Infantry Officer, and my son is one. We've fielded the best equipped force in the history of the world, but those looking for a brick to throw at GWB and his administration will always find something to carp about. Their motivation isn't the welfare of the troops. Mine is.

I've considered buying Dragonskin for my son. The current issue stuff isn't perfect, but it does the job. The greatest threat right now is from blast, and snipers. Dragonskin isn't an appreciable improvement over the current equipment against these threats. Is Dragonskin the best? For bodyguards, I'd say yes, but their requirements are different than those on the battlefield. I do know that there are a lot of professionals involved in getting our troops the very best equipment as fast as they can, everyday.

Finally, I'm not overly concerned with the opinions of an Air Force SSgt, or anyone else whose military experience consists of blogging bile, and watching MASH. One does not argue transubstantiation with an alterboy, let alone an atheist.

Posted by: Casca at February 16, 2007 9:31 AM

"We have no business sending anyone into war unless they're properly equipped. There is so much about this war that is wrong, but this sort of thing is especially terrible."

What's even more terrible is that proper equipment won't help them. We cannot win this war, and the administration knows it. They are sending soldiers off to die needlessly, which is the same thing that happened at the end of Vietnam.

Posted by: Hasan at February 16, 2007 10:00 AM

Well, Casca, the facts seem pretty straightforward -

Tests at Stanford University Medical Center which showed Dragon Skin to have excellent bullet stopping performance and weigh 50% less than conventional body armor, since Brian mentioned weight, this should be another reason to use this armor.
Sorry you don't like Air Force Sargeants, but looks like he's getting shot at too, so I'm fine to take his opinion. I'm sure us atheists could understand the reasons Interceptor is just fine or better than Dragon Skin on the battlefield; the three things that come to mind are
Stopping ability
So, what am I missing? I'm getting kind of busy here, but I'm sure anyone with Google capabilities could find you plenty more testimonials of soldiers over there now, getting shot at, who'd rather have the DS.
Besides that, your argument consists of a lot of bland generalities (very best, every day, best army ever) that mean NOTHING. Show us altarboys these battlefield smarts of yours.

Posted by: Cat brother at February 16, 2007 10:01 AM

Cat - so you're saying that due to institutional incompetence, Bush is to blame? I have no idea why the Army would claim the stuff failed testing when it passed. Probably for the same reason that George Tenet said it was "a slam-dunk". Institutional incompetence combined with arrogance and tribal pissing contests.

None of which solves the actual problem. If the money is there, the armor is there, and the testing is done, then either Bush needs to start firing people until they lose their bullshit attitudes, or we need another hard-ass like Rumsfeld, except one who isn't afraid to fire people who are obstructions to change.

Hasan - the only way you can believe that we cannot win this war is if you have drunk the Islamist kool-aid. If our military was not hampered by the political imbeciles in the US and their twitchy response to every fabricated story in Reuters and AP, this war would have been decisively over months ago. Maybe the sniping will stop with a democrat president. After all, the economy miraculously recovered 48 hours after the dems took the house and senate.

Posted by: brian at February 16, 2007 11:34 AM

Upgrading technology is constant - the troops are well prepared to fight *right now*. As they must be.
I think most people agree they are not being allowed to fight. It a top down thing.
They were not allowed to drop tactical nukes (or other appropriate ordinance) around Tora Bora way back when, as Amy alluded to.
They were not allowed to level Fallujah in the first battle.
They are not allowed to destroy weapons depots (Mosques).
They are not allowed to go to the source and destory the terror masters in Tehran.
How could they possibly win?

Sherman did the right thing and we should learn from him. He actually killed very few civilians in his marching around destroying. He just brought the idea of war home to population that was supporting it. Destoryed their towns, homes, fields, infrastructure. He made things very clear and the support for war in the South vanished.

So... how about in addition to hitting all the gov't and nuke sites in Iran, we hit all their oil infrastructure as well. Screw em. It will give the lie to the old blood for oil meme. And it will make clear that whomever takes over after that, DO NOT THREATEN THE US. Or else.
No nation building, no occupation.

Posted by: Jon at February 16, 2007 12:09 PM


If there is a solution to the Iraqi conflict, it will be reached by diplomatic channels, not military ones. Bu the US does not even mention diplomatic solutions, only whether to send more troops or less troops, only about force and power. That path is destined for failure.

Posted by: Hasan at February 16, 2007 12:26 PM

Whoa, I must of hit it pretty close to the mark to get you riled up Casca. Must we compare resumes'?

Attended a brutal (before it went co-ed) 4 year military school run by the Societas Iesu. I walked out of there with 3 things:

1. Head full of knowledge.
2. Intense dislike of regimented life.
3. Great posture.

I traveled and lived in various parts of the Middle East from 1992 to 2003. Volunteered for a Medical-Scientific charity that did work for American University in Cairo and Beirut from 1998 to 2003. Besides Arabic. I can speak Russian, Spanish, Italian, German and Latin fluently.

How about a hypothetical questions? Would soldiers like to hear WWII comparisons or some of my stories of traveling, living and surviving in the Middle East?

One final note, if the quality of the bloggers here is so degrading. Then why grace us with your presence?

Posted by: Joe at February 16, 2007 12:30 PM

No Joe, I didn't even read your post until you called me out, and obviously you didn't read mine closely enough to take my point. I'm not interested in spending any of my life refuting strawmen. You've obviously done plenty for your ego. What have you done for your country?

Posted by: Casca at February 16, 2007 1:58 PM

> Crid, you're not even trying here,
> so you'll be ignored.

You love me, admit it... Without me, you're nothing. NOTHING!

(Sorry, busy day at work)

Posted by: Crid at February 16, 2007 2:17 PM

This is another fine example of something I have pointed out before: Americans will only "support" our troops with stupid stickers and garage-sale antics. They do not care to learn anything about the governmental supply systems (which they voted into existence, BTW, as a consequence of regulations), but are immediately ready to spew anything they can that sounds good for and to them. Thinking is not allowed; neither is study.

No conventional force anywhere can survive battle with the USA. It's when we turn them into "police", concerned with the "rights" of people who would burn our Bill of Rights if they could, that we expose them to the kind of crap they find in Iraq.

You want to stop this nonsense? Get off that numb butt and ask your Congressperson why they sit in comfort, give the power to do this to the President and then complain about it!

Resolutions? Where the hell is/was the declaration of war, without which there isn't such a thing?


By the way, Amy, that Explorer isn't a mileage champ, but it's no H2. Not a good example.

Posted by: Radwaste at February 16, 2007 2:28 PM

> They do not care to learn anything
> about the governmental supply
> systems

How much can we be expected to learn? People in this thread literally want us to stop bullets, and apparently the armor fails in some contexts, which is not a surprise... People wear seatbelts but die in auto accidents, too. I'd expect that this stuff is too cumbersome for some missions, but nuanced judgments like this are too much for the taxpayer.

What's worrysome is this:

> We are the wealthiest country
> in the world

You can say that about anything anytime and win any argument. We're the wealthiest country in the world, and there are potholes on Wilshire's Miracle Mile.

> protect them the very best we can.

Amy does that with energy conservation, too. But such a standard can be applied to any conflict. Of course we want soldiers protected, but there are people who want to protect them by never having them fight. This is their first line of argument, insisting on protection so expensive and cumbersome that warfare is prohibitively expensive. For such people, Iraq is not the problem, and it's not the soldier they're concerned with... (I doubt Amy's argument, not the sincerity of her concern)

Posted by: Crid at February 16, 2007 4:30 PM



If there is a solution to the Iraqi conflict, it will be reached by diplomatic channels, not military ones. Bu the US does not even mention diplomatic solutions, only whether to send more troops or less troops, only about force and power. That path is destined for failure.

There is no possibility for a diplomatic solution to anything in the middle east so long as Syria and Iran remain in the control of the dictators and thugs that presently run them.

You do not negotiate with thugs. You kill them. Negotiating with Germany got London bombed. Negotiating with Japan got Pearl Harbor leveled.

Negotiation begins after one side no longer has anything to give.

Posted by: brian at February 16, 2007 7:24 PM

Brian's carburetion runs a little rich, but he's on to something here... What exactly do we have to negiotiate? What's on the table? Or rather, WHO's on the table? In 2007, someone's probably going to be sold like cattle.

Posted by: Crid at February 16, 2007 7:46 PM

I know my monitor is old but the Explorer I'm looking at is definitely not being driven by a Support our Troops type. The only inconsistency I can see is idea that this particular gas guzzler is being driven by someone that doesn't want that nasty old oil from Iraq getting into the crankcase.

Posted by: Pat Patterson at February 16, 2007 8:19 PM

A lot of you people only regurgitate what the liberal media tells you. I have been a Marine and presently a soldier and Iraq Vet. I have been there and a lot of us could care little about the body armor. Once there, all this gear gets too hot and heavy. I noticed that every chance a soldier got he tries to take it off. That goes for the kevlar helmet too. As far as negotiating with these nuts, is like trying to negotiate with a rabid dog. Go ahead Susie tree huger, go give it a try and see where you will end up. Let me give you a taste, "cover your face and stay in the house. Oh! and by the way have dinner ready. And this is from a naturalized American.

Posted by: Paul at March 3, 2007 8:16 PM

Perhaps, if that's a problem, we should be working overtime to come up with body armor that isn't so heat-keeping.

Susie Tree Hugger? You got something against breating?

And with that "liberal media" line, you sound like a parrot. The way to really rake in the cash these days is to be right wing and loose with the truth. The left is loose with the truth, but apart from sleazy Michael Moore, there's little money in it.

And P.S. I'm a fiscal conservative -- my friend Scot calls me "just to the right of Genghis Khan regarding some of my ideas -- and a social libertarian. What about not polluting the shit out of the planet and not increasing our dependence on oil from a bunch of crazy primitive motherfuckers seems like a bad idea to you?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 3, 2007 8:52 PM

Furthermore, I've read that armed services vehicles are poorly armed. That working well for you, too? I think, if you're fighting on behalf of the rest of us, we should be working very hard to give you the best equipment -- especially protective equipment -- we can...and if that means engineering equipment that works better in the heat of the Middle East, so be it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 3, 2007 8:54 PM

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